The Tale of a Crypto Executive Who Wasn’t Who He Said He Was

Mr. Rogers, who ran an investment fund with George Soros and wrote the book “Investment Biker,” said he had briefly been a “skeptical adviser” on the project since he did not expect it to work. He added that he had never bought cryptocurrency, let alone via Mr. Hannum.

“I have never heard of him,” he told me by email. “This is all absurd.”

Mr. Hannum was somewhat connected to the failed venture: He worked at a marketing firm in Santa Monica, Calif., called Hawke Media that helped with it, according to Erik Huberman, Hawke’s chief executive.

A Guide to Cryptocurrency

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Bitcoin. A Bitcoin is a digital token that can be sent electronically from one user to another, anywhere in the world. Bitcoin is also the name of the payment network on which this form of digital currency is stored and moved.

Blockchain. A blockchain is a database maintained communally and that reliably stores digital information. The original blockchain was the database on which all Bitcoin transactions were stored, but non-currency-based companies and governments are also trying to use blockchain technology to store their data.

Coinbase. The first major cryptocurrency company to list its shares on a U.S. stock exchange, Coinbase is a platform that allows people and companies to buy and sell various digital currencies, including Bitcoin, for a transaction fee.

Web3. The name “web3” is what some technologists call the idea of a new kind of internet service that is built using blockchain-based tokens, replacing centralized, corporate platforms with open protocols and decentralized, community-run networks.

DAOs. A decentralized autonomous organization, or DAO, is an organizational structure built with blockchain technology that is often described as a crypto co-op. DAOs form for a common purpose, like investing in start-ups, managing a stablecoin or buying NFTs.

I could find no evidence that Mr. Hannum had made any venture investments, let alone $100 million worth. And it’s not clear exactly how he found his way to ZenLedger. Pat Larsen, ZenLedger’s chief executive and a founder, would not get on the phone with me and did not respond to any of my emails. I also wanted to know if he had read the big Forbes profile, where Mr. Hannum described how he had been an early funder of ZenLedger.

Rob Ford, an outside spokesman for ZenLedger, tried to clear some things up. He said that Mr. Hannum did not invest in ZenLedger and that Mr. Larsen had not read the Forbes article. The company does not believe Mr. Hannum ever misrepresented the company itself, he added.

(The I.R.S. connection is real: ZenLedger has four contracts, totaling $509,600, under the corporate name Blockchain Analytics and Tax Software L.L.C. The agency said contracts generally remained in place until they expired. “However,” it added, “government contracts, including this one, are subject to ongoing review in accordance with federal contracting standards.”)

So how did Mr. Hannum end up at ZenLedger?

“Mr. Hannum was referred to ZenLedger through a professional relationship and was cleared by a federal background check with no flags regarding his education or work history,” the company’s statement said. “Once it became evident that he had misrepresented his education and work history, as well as the nature of his role with ZenLedger, his employment with the company was terminated that day.”

A check of federal records is never a bad idea when hiring someone, but it probably wouldn’t raise red flags about a person’s professional or educational background. So if ZenLedger wasn’t asking the right questions, what about its investors?